As a part of our local geography block – since we live in Oregon – we have been learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition. This subject has been so engaging for my fourth grader and we have found some really fantastic books about this time in history. Today I’m sharing some of our favorites.
Favorite book for an overview of the expedition:
How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer
This book gives an excellent overview of what motivated the expedition in the first place, how preparations were made, what supplies were packed, who went on the journey, what challenges they encountered, what happened when they reached the Pacific and what the return journey was like. It includes bite-sized excerpts from Lewis and Clark’s journals. The illustrations are excellent! Highly recommend.
Favorite picture book about the expedition:
Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark by Patricia Reeder Eubank
This is a fun book written from the perspective of the Newfoundland dog belonging to Meriwether Lewis. Seaman was the only dog taken on the expedition and this playful story is written in diary format and tells about key moments of the journey, like when Sacagawea’s baby was born, when the group realized there would be no straight river route to the Pacific and that they’d have to cross the Bitterroot Mountains and when the party was attacked by a bear. The illustrations in this book are wonderful.
Favorite book about York:
The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Expedition by Hasan Davis
The fact that a slave was taken on the expedition really fascinated my kiddo and we read a lot about him. York was the slave of William Clark and wasn’t given a choice as to whether he would go on the journey or not. York was critical to the success of the expedition and this picture book does an excellent job of telling the story from his perspective.
Another book my fourth grader enjoyed reading about York was York’s Adventures with Lewis and Clark: An African-American’s Part in the Great Expedition by Rhoda Blumberg. This book is denser than The Journey of York and the illustrations are a bit more textbook-y, but it is still chock full of great information.
Favorite book about Sacagawea:
Sacagawea: American Pathfinder by Flora Warren Seymour
This was the book my fourth grader selected to read independently on this topic. I asked her to narrate a book report for me, which I typed up, and I was struck by how many great details she remembered about Sacagawea’s life. I love that the book spent a lot of time focusing on Sacagawea’s childhood, which made it possible, I think, for my child to put herself in her shoes and imagine how she would feel about some of the challenges Sacagawea faced in her life. Sacagawea’s strength and courage really stood out to my kiddo.
Favorite documentary about Lewis and Clark’s expedition:
This Ken Burns documentary is a little old – it premiered in 1997 – but it is absolutely excellent. It is about three hours long so we have been watching it in segments. I appreciate all the different voices that the documentary incorporates, including the perspective of Native Americans, which can be sadly lacking in some resources. The pacing and content has been totally appropriate for my fourth grader.
Some other books we looked at for reference, but didn’t read in their entirety, included: Sacagawea Speaks: Beyond the Shining Mountains with Lewis and Clark, Animals on the Trail with Lewis and Clark, Lewis and Clark for Kids: Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities and In Their Own Words: Lewis and Clark.
I hope you have as much fun learning about this topic as we did! And if I missed a great book about Lewis & Clark’s expedition, please let me know in the comments!